One Police Plaza

The Trouble With Barry

January 16, 2017

What’s the NYPD going to do about Insp. Barry Buzzetti?

“He is acknowledged as an outstanding commander. He has excelled at challenging assignments,” said Captains’ Endowment President Roy Richter. “But he has home-life issues that have impacted on his career.”

A former top cop put it this way: “He’s a talented guy who can think on his feet. But he’s definitely flawed. The guy flies high, but he’s always going to crash.”

Those home-life issues have, indeed, been challenging. A decade ago, as a deputy inspector and the commanding officer of the 48th Precinct in the Bronx, he was stripped of command for viewing soft-core porn on his work computer. Police sources say the investigation started after his wife, herself an ex-cop cop, accused him of carrying on with two female subordinates.

“He was a ladies’ man,” said a former high-ranking police official who investigated the case.

But at 1 Police Plaza people have a different take on Buzzetti. In 2011, amid a meltdown in the 34th Precinct that lead to its commanding officer being dumped after a crime surge, Buzzetti was assigned to take over the station house, and he turned it around. Homicides, robberies, felony assaults, burglaries and car thefts all dropped from the year before. Only one homicide occurred in the precinct in all of 2013, compared to eight in 2011.

“Inspector Barry Buzzetti is a dedicated and accessible public servant who served Washington Heights and Inwood with intelligence, energy and conviction,” then-State Sen. Adriano Espaillat said at the time.

Steve Feldheim, acting president of the precinct community council, added: “I’ve been through a lot of commanding officers, but Buzzetti is one of the few real people. He gave out his phone number at meetings. You don’t see that a lot.”

After he was transferred by former Commissioner Bill Bratton to work in Manhattan as an aide to Chief William Morris, said to be a tough boss, his home-life issues resurfaced and he crashed again. In 2015, he was arrested at his Clarkson home in Rockland County after allegedly assaulting his wife. A newspaper report said the trouble started after he caught his wife going through his iPad.

Police sources say the incident was investigated by the Internal Affairs Bureau. Buzzetti was suspended and, to the relief of many in the NYPD, he filed for retirement.

But then, his wife declined to press charges last year, and Buzzetti said he’s remaining in the department. “He has pulled his papers,” Richter said last week.

A few weeks ago, Buzzetti was officially assigned to the Queens North Patrol Borough.

But, according to cops there, he has yet to show up. “He’s never set foot in the building,” said one on condition of anonymity. 

Asked about that, Richter said Buzzetti has been on sick leave.

The departmental trial of Richard Haste — who fatally shot unarmed black teenager Ramarley Graham in his Bronx apartment — mistakenly believing Graham had a gun, begins this week. 

The department’s final report on the shooting was signed by then-Chief of Department James O’Neill and faults Haste for poor tactics in entering Graham’s second-floor apartment, according to police sources. 

An initial report by O’Neill’s predecessor, Philip Banks, downplayed Haste’s faults and instead blamed the sergeant at the scene for not stopping Haste from entering Graham’s apartment building. Bratton, as this column reported last week, refused to accept Banks’s conclusions and asked him to rewrite them, placing the blame on Haste. Banks, who’s now retired, refused.

Apparently, O’Neill did not.


Copyright © 2017 Leonard Levitt